YEREVAN / BAKU – Armenia declared martial law on Sunday and mobilized its male population after clashes with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, in which sources on both sides reported deaths.
The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian region in Azerbaijan, which declared independence in 1991, also proclaimed martial law and mobilized the male population after clashes that accused both sides of each other.
Armenia said Azerbaijan carried out an air and artillery attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan responded to the Armenian shelling.
Armenian human rights activists said two civilians, a woman and a child, were killed in Azerbaijani shelling. Baku said an unspecified number of Azerbaijani civilians were killed and six wounded, and Nagorno-Karabakh said ten of its military personnel were killed. The reports could not be independently confirmed.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, a mediator in decades of conflict between the predominantly Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, urged both sides to immediately stop the fire and hold talks.
The two countries have long been at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Although a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azerbaijani-Armenian border.
The conflict has worried western and regional countries in part because it could lead to instability in the South Caucasus, which serves as a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said its forces destroyed three tanks and shot down two helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles in response to an attack on civilian targets including the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate and the Azerbaijani military leadership bears full responsibility for the situation,” the ministry said in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
The Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter: “We remain strong alongside our army to protect our motherland from the invasion of the Azerbaijanis.”
In another tweet he said that Baku’s aggression was pre-planned and constituted a “large-scale provocation” against regional peace and security.
Azerbaijan denied the Armenian Defense Ministry’s statement on the grounds that it had “a complete advantage over the enemy at the front” and accused the Armenian armed forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front lines.
“We are defending our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said some civilians had been killed but did not claim any death.
At least 200 people were killed when the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up in April 2016.
Skirmishes are frequent and at least 16 were killed in clashes in July.